Saturday, December 01, 2007

meta and it's antonym

So today I was writing and suddenly came to a dead stop looking for a word that means the opposite of "meta"

I found some interesting tidbits. The first was that I couldn't find any decent opposite anywhere. at all. and I have some sources that work for most everything.

Secondly is that ... the literature (and I'm using that term in the most absurdly loose sense) doesn't seem to mean, by "meta", what *I* mean by "meta". Only one entry in the long list generated when you tell Google (you know what's *yotta* funny? Blogger says "google" is mispelled if it's not capitalized) "Define: meta" even touches on what I mean--and even that one doesn't quite capture it.

So here's a question. What do you mean by the prefix "meta"?

And what's it's opposite?

Aha--wikipedia gets it. It's actually fairly unusual to see wikipedia and google going down such different tracks.

When I think of "meta", I think of arabian nights. and of hofstadter, who actually just came out with a new one this year which is more autobiographical, and apparently has quite a tragic and deeply moving story within, called I am a Strange Loop .


Justin said...

Hi Benjamin,
I think of the opposite of meta as being literal, flat, or surface-level - what you see is what you get.

Since WP defines meta as being about its own category, I'd say the opposite is being unaware that it's even in a category (or at least unaware that it's in that particular category).

Great question!

byron smith said...

Perhaps 'para-' (= along, beside).

Anonymous said...

I just started looking for this same thing--A word or prefix that has the relationship to 'meta' that 'actual' has to 'virtual'.

Moon said...

I'm also looking for this answer. Some candidates:


Though base- seems to be conceptually arranged like byron smith's para- suggestion. In the software architectural pattern Reflection, the base-level is that from which the meta-level is measured or discovered.

And, ur- and proto- seem to imply the root (lowest) level of an hierarchy, not the immediate prior level hierarchically.

When I hear the phrase "Go meta", I translate that as "Abstract your POV by approximately one level up the perceived hierarchy", which is a hierarchy that you may be still discovering, and the reason for going meta.

So, the opposite of going meta should be something like materializing, disaggregating, enlarging but perhaps simplifying your POV by approximately one subordinate level down the hierarchy".

Simplicity is bi-directional; it can be conceptually so on one hand (why you'd go meta), and tangibly so on the other (why you'd go "proto"/"base"/"common").

As big and fat as English is, I suspect there is a word from another natural language that may be hijacked (perhaps mangled) for this purpose.

Moon said...

One other note, SAT verbal style with a reference to calculus:


Alva said...

how about "mesa" which is greek for in or middle, as meta is greek for beyond? So where meta-level means beyond itself, mesa-level could mean in the middle of itself?

Benjamin Ady said...

Alva--elegant and simple. I'm going to use it that way from now on.



First off, awesome blog name. I immediately love you based on that.

Second, :D

Third, I know it's not exactly an antonym, but for the sake of it, I'm going with "micro". (Meta is above itself, micro is below).

Fourth and finally (and the honest reason I'm typing this)... sorry to "well, actually" you, but the reason "google" is misspelled when it's lowercase is because it's actually spelled googol when referring to the number. (Though, that shows up as misspelled too. Odd...)

Bill the Nomenclator said...

How about sub? Since the prefix form of meta- usually translates as beyond or after, sub, with the meaning of below, would seem to work. "That movie was too meta for me." "Really? I thought it was pretty sub."